A federal judge indicated today that she might throw out the death penalty case against Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui after prosecutors disclosed that a government attorney had violated the court's rules about discussing witness testimony.
U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema called it "the most egregious violation of the court's rules on witnesses'' she had seen "in all the years I've been on the bench.''
Her comments came after prosecutors said a Federal Aviation Administration attorney had discussed the testimony of FAA witnesses with them before they took the stand and also arranged for them to read a transcript of the government's opening statement in the case. Both actions were banned by the judge in a pre-trial order.You can't blame the judge here. Her order was standard-issue for cases like this, and perfectly clear. The people who violated it were lawyers, not laypeople. They understood what they were doing, or would have, if they hadn't let overzealousness -- fed by a culture of lawbreaking overzealousness from the Oval Office on down -- blind their good judgment.
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